Many women think that there is nothing they can do about breast cancer, except mammograms to detect and mastectomy to avoid, but there are steps you can take to prevent it or lower your risk
On Breast Cancer Awareness month (October), it is sad to report that the condition is diagnosed in one in seven women. The NHS is doing a great job by focusing on early detection to improve the outcome. However, routine screening is often perceived as waiting for the worst to happen, or at least for bad news. Shifting the focus on the underlying hormonal imbalance may produce an effective prevention strategy that will protect the patient and take away their constant fear of developing this condition.
To start searching for effective prevention, it is important to recognise breast cancer’s link with the female hormone oestrogen because oestrogen can feed breast cancer. Besides breast cancer, other oestrogenic cancers include ovarian, uterine and, and prostate cancer in males.
A Harvard University study reported that oestrogen has the biggest impact on breast cancer of all female hormones. The conclusion is to keep oestrogen levels balanced to prevent or minimise the risk of breast cancer.
5% of breast cancer is genetic (the BRCA gene.) Not all women with this genetic predisposition will develop breast cancer, though few of them choose to have a double mastectomy (removal of both breasts) to avoid the chance.
Signs of oestrogen dominance
High oestrogen is a known risk factor for breast cancer. I have met many ladies with symptoms of oestrogen excess, but none of them has been advised to check their risk of breast cancer.
Symptoms of oestrogen excess in women include low libido, PMS, heavy periods, breast or ovarian cysts, PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, cellulite, sleep disturbance, memory problems, fluid retention, weight gain, lumpy, painful, or swollen breasts, and something which is difficult to define but which I am going to call, “fidgety issues.”
Not all oestrogens are bad. Oestrogen is important to your health and vitality. But the hormone has to be detoxified after playing its physiological role.
There are three types of oestrogen – oestrone E1, oestradiol E2 and oestriol E3. Oestradiol is the most aggressive of the three and is linked to breast cancer. Oestriol (E3) is protective and is often prescribed for women with oestrogen dominance.
Oestrogen dominance means one of two things: either you have too much oestrogen in relation to progesterone, or you have an imbalance in oestrogen metabolites, of which some are protective, and some are reactive.
For example, Oestrone (E1), when detoxified through one specific route (CYP1B1), forms a reactive (4OH-E1) metabolite. This can damage the DNA leading to gene mutation and breast cancer.
So, having symptoms of high oestrogen should alert you to seek help to investigate your oestrogen profile. Higher levels of oestrogen can be adjusted, and reactive metabolites can be removed.
Oestrogen or progesterone receptors are where normal breast cells have receptors to attach to oestrogen and progesterone.
Breast cancer sufferers who have oestrogen receptors are referred to as ER-positive (ER+), while those containing progesterone are referred to as PR-positive (PR+.) Two-thirds of breast cancer sufferers have at least one of these receptors. The percentage is higher in older women than in younger ones.
These patients – who are more “receptor-positive” or “hormone-positive” – may be treated with hormone therapy – drugs that lower oestrogen or block oestrogen receptors. Like tamoxifen blocks, the receptors and hence prevents cancer from recurring.
Early menarche has been linked with an increased risk of breast cancer, and, for this reason, and others, many parents are concerned about their daughter’s early menstruation. It is certainly not something any young girl would want to be faced with.
Menarche is considered to be early if it starts before the girl is 8 years old. There is a general trend for puberty to be earlier and earlier, though individual cases may be related to a particular medical issue. For example, in Europe, the average age decreased from 17 to 13 between 1850 and 1960, though this trend is slowing, with one recent report citing a decrease of less than a year (13.3 to 12.4) during the last century.
Factors that make it more likely for girls to start their periods earlier include the rise in childhood obesity, which means that the individual reaches the required body size earlier. Fat also secretes the hormone leptin, which promotes sexual development. In addition, our greater exposure to plastic and pesticides, with oestrogenic activity, also accelerates sexual maturity.
The consequences of early menarche are manifold, including negative psychosocial effects, but the one that we are concerned with here is the girl’s earlier and greater exposure to oestrogen and, therefore, greater risk of breast cancer.
Breastfeeding: research indicated that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who do not since they do not ovulate while breastfeeding, this keeps their oestrogen levels steady.
You DO have power over this cancer
You have more power over your risk of breast cancer than you think. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself, and each one of them can make a positive difference.
The key is to find out about your hormones. High oestrogen can build up in your body due to slow detoxification or taking exogenous oestrogen in birth control pills or having oestrogenic effects from the accumulation of environmental (xenoestrogens) toxins in your body.
If you are overweight, your visceral fat (belly fat) produces hormones, including oestrogen.
Stress and acid pills inhibit the stomach acid production necessary for the digestion of protein, which is necessary for the detoxification of oestrogen.
Heavy metals such as mercury share the same detoxification pathways, so heavy metal toxicity reduce your capacity to detoxify oestrogen.
Oestrogen detoxification predominantly takes place in the liver.
Phase 1 consists of a group of enzymes (Cytochrome P450) converting oestrogen into water-soluble compounds.
Phase 2 involves an enzyme called COMT. This also detoxifies heavy metal and stress hormones, meaning the genetic COMT variant will not only impede the detoxification of oestrogen but can make you feel anxious and grumpy.
Your liver detox is generally supported by a compound known as sulforaphane available in the brassica family of vegetables that includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and spinach.
In phase 3, oestrogen is combined with a molecule called glucuronide to facilitate excretion. The compound passes in bile into the gut. This can be deconjugated by an enzyme called glucuronidase, produced by pathogenic bacteria in the gut, releasing oestrogen back into the circulation.
Phase 3 is best supported by taking an adequate amount of fibre, which holds onto the toxins and good bowel function at least once or twice daily to clear away oestrogen and other harmful toxins.
Oestrogenic effect of plastic and pesticides
Oestrogen-like industrial substances referred to a xenoestrogen occur in pesticides and herbicides that contaminate our food. The plastic in water bottles, flame retardants in furniture and body products also contain these endocrine disruptors.
The presence of xenoestrogens in the body gives the effect of oestrogen excess resulting in early puberty, breast cancer, obesity, and infertility.
What can I do to avoid excess oestrogen?
Avoid the use of contraceptive pills to regulate the menstrual cycle—synthetic oestrogen and progesterone cause excess oestrogen.
Consume organic fruits and vegetables rich in fibre. Fibre is important as it binds the oestrogen that is detoxified by the liver and ensures it is eliminated from the body. Reduce your oestrogen content by eating organic poultry, grass-fed meat, and small cold-water fish rich in omega 3.
Use biological body products to avoid toxins. Drink clean water by using high-quality water filters. Avoid the use of drugs, particularly anti-acid pills, that interfere with your nutrition and your ability to detoxify toxins.
Use natural agents such as milk thistle and dandelion to support your liver detoxification process.
Most importantly, take care of your liver, your main detox organ, that is frequently turned into a fat store by high fructose corn syrup (HFCS, found in fizzy and non-fizzy drinks) that damages your liver by the same process as alcohol, resulting initially in a fatty liver and later liver cirrhosis. So please avoid HFCS and alcohol.
Burn belly fat. The metabolically active fat can produce oestrogen and inflammatory cytokines, resulting in hormonal imbalance. High oestrogen also makes you gain more fat and put on weight.
Avoid stress. This will promote the production of cortisol by the adrenal gland at the expense of progesterone that balances oestrogen—practice meditation and deep breathing to keep your stress at bay.
Get adequate restful sleep. Most of your body’s detoxification process takes place during your sleep, primarily between 10 pm and 2 am. This highlights the importance of early to bed, early to rise. Take your last meal 2 to 3 hours before bedtime to allow your body to focus on detoxification and body repair while sleeping.
Sweat out toxins via the skin by having an infrared sauna and regular exercise.
So, my friends, on this Breast Cancer Awareness month, I need to emphasise the fact that besides the great efforts on early detection of cases to improve the outcome, you can take vital and significant steps towards lowering your risk of breast cancer. Given the right balance of nutrients and hormones, the human body can do wonderful things.
Please share your thoughts and ask any questions on this subject, and please do subscribe to the newsletter so that you don’t miss further vital information. Thank you!
Breast cancer and oestrogen link: 18 ways to prevent and manage breast cancer naturally
Exogenous Hormone administration
Facts and figures about breast Cancer
Eight ways to prevent breast cancer
12 possible causes of high oestrogen
Early menarche: early menstruation trends and causes over the years